Brown University launches milestone executive cybersecurity program

Master's degree curriculum bridges disciplines to train experienced leaders

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Aim­ing to devel­op cyber­se­cu­ri­ty lead­ers, Brown Uni­ver­si­ty will launch a master’s degree pro­gram for cyber pro­fes­sion­als in the fall of 2016.

The 16-month degree pro­gram at the pres­ti­gious Ivy League uni­ver­si­ty in Prov­i­dence, Rhode Island, joins a rapid­ly increas­ing num­ber of col­leges with under­grad­u­ate or grad­u­ate cyber­se­cu­ri­ty degree pro­grams. The Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land, Carnegie Mel­lon and George Mason Uni­ver­si­ty are among col­leges already offer­ing such master’s degrees.

Alan Usas, director of Brown University cybersecurity program
Alan Usas, direc­tor of Brown Uni­ver­si­ty cyber­se­cu­ri­ty program

Brown’s “exec­u­tive mas­ter” pro­gram will be the first to focus on cyber lead­er­ship of law, pol­i­cy, tech­nol­o­gy and human fac­tors, says Alan Usas, direc­tor of the pro­gram that expects 25 to 30 ini­tial stu­dents. There’s “a ris­ing demand for vision­ary cyber­se­cu­ri­ty lead­er­ship in pri­vate sec­tor, gov­ern­ment and oth­er organizations.”

Before estab­lish­ing its pro­gram, Brown’s mar­ket stud­ies showed “a sig­nif­i­cant unmet need for peo­ple who can bridge the dis­ci­plines impor­tant in devel­op­ing and imple­ment­ing cyber strate­gies, work­ing across busi­ness func­tions and with out­side par­ties to tack­le the chal­lenges,” Usas says. “These lead­ers will bring knowl­edge of tech­nol­o­gy, law and pol­i­cy to work with exec­u­tives, board mem­bers, reg­u­la­tors, ven­dors and oth­ers to make real our claim that ‘strat­e­gy is the best security.’”

No new­bies need apply

Brown’s pro­gram, which costs $97,500, is not for cyber­se­cu­ri­ty begin­ners or under­grad­u­ates with­out cyber­se­cu­ri­ty expe­ri­ence. The uni­ver­si­ty wants master’s degree can­di­dates with five to 15 years of expe­ri­ence, accord­ing to Usas, who was named pro­gram direc­tor in February.

We’re look­ing for peo­ple who are com­mit­ted, have expe­ri­ence they can bring into the class­room and are look­ing for a cre­den­tial like a master’s degree to take them to the next lev­el,” he says.

Brown saw “a large need for cyber­se­cu­ri­ty pro­fes­sion­als of all kinds,” Usas explains. “But, as we got deep­er behind the data and talked to some cor­po­rate lead­ers, what we heard over and over again was a need for man­age­ment talent—not just pure tech­ni­cal tal­ent, but peo­ple who would come in with a broad set of skills that would pre­vent the kind of silo approach­es to cyber­se­cu­ri­ty strate­gies that, unfor­tu­nate­ly, have led to a lot of disasters.”

The 16-month pro­gram entails four weeks on the Brown cam­pus in Prov­i­dence, one week in the San Fran­cis­co area, and the remain­der online “with a lot of inter­ac­tion between stu­dents and fac­ul­ty,” Usas says.

Real-world train­ing

The Bay Area week is pri­mar­i­ly designed “as an expe­ri­en­tial learn­ing time when stu­dents will meet with cor­po­rate and oth­er orga­ni­za­tion lead­er­ship to get a clos­er look at the chal­lenges they face and to engage in dis­cus­sions that apply their learn­ing to date,” he says. The online seg­ment enables cyber pro­fes­sion­als to main­tain a job while work­ing toward their degree.

Brown’s pro­gram, Usas says, is in line with Pres­i­dent Obama’s exec­u­tive order last year to pro­mote shar­ing of pri­vate-sec­tor cyber­se­cu­ri­ty Information.

Relat­ed: Oba­ma calls for wide shar­ing of threat intelligence

One of our goals is to recruit and admit a diverse stu­dent body,” because the stu­dent-to-stu­dent learn­ing com­po­nent is vital,” he says. “By admit­ting a cohort of peo­ple from diverse indus­tries and skill sets, we’re going to have a stu­dent body that will be excit­ing, and it will be chal­leng­ing to be a part of that learn­ing environment.”

Prospec­tive cyber­se­cu­ri­ty master’s can­di­dates also may be excit­ed about a degree pro­gram that the Uni­ver­si­ty of Den­ver recent­ly added.

The col­lege said its 12-month, on-cam­pus master’s pro­gram is so impor­tant in tack­ling a cyber­se­cu­ri­ty work­er short­age that all stu­dents accept­ed will receive a schol­ar­ship cut­ting tuition in half. Based on tuition costs for the 2015–16 school year, a stu­dent receiv­ing a schol­ar­ship would pay about $29,000 for the year-long program.

The program’s aim, accord­ing to the uni­ver­si­ty, is to give grad­u­ates “the tech­ni­cal foun­da­tion they need to have an accel­er­at­ed career in the fastest-grow­ing indus­try in the nation.”

Besides its master’s degree in cyber­se­cu­ri­ty, the uni­ver­si­ty also offers a master’s pro­gram in infor­ma­tion sys­tems security.

More sto­ries relat­ed to cyber­se­cu­ri­ty jobs:
Help want­ed: More women in cyber­se­cu­ri­ty jobs
Cyber­se­cu­ri­ty jobs go unfilled as breach­es boom
Three steps to fix­ing the cyber­se­cu­ri­ty tal­ent shortage